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Katie Burkhart's Story: Part II, A Storm Is Brewing

(Stephen Pingry/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Katie Burkhart was at the top of her game when she led Arizona State to its first NCAA Championship in 2008. Since retiring from her playing career in 2012, she has been all over the country in hopes of finding herself. Burkhart now wants to share her story with the world in a series of posts for Softball America. This is Part II.

Now I understand why the kids I grew up with hated athletes.

I’ve always been a little different anyway. Softball wasn’t all I had but my creative, wild-haired and rebellious self struggled in school. I never quite felt like I fit in and I would jump friends like jumping a burning ship.

It was hard for me to feel or care about others in the way they needed me to, so it was easier to just leave them behind and use softball as an excuse as to why I couldn’t hang out. This feeling followed me long after high school, college and the pro’s.

Have you ever walked into a room and felt like you didn’t belong? That’s how I felt walking into my first interview for a marketing position at a Powder Coating company at 28 in Nashville, Tenn.

My resume started off like this, “When life throws a curveball I know how to spin it, pitch it, and strike out the competition. Through my 20 years of athletics and coaching at the D-I level, it has taught me how to be a leader, determined, assertive, and capable of getting the job done. My skill sets and strengths are what make me a dynamic individual as well as a team player in Art Direction, Design, Coaching/Teaching, Big Picture Thinking, Customer Relations, and Strategy. I am seeking opportunities as a Marketing Manager to diversify my passion for people, social media, education and creative thinking.”

I mean who wouldn’t want to hire a young, confident, former athlete that’s ready to take on the world? No one if they can’t see the value you will bring their company, which was 90 percent of the failed interviews or resumes I sent out and heard nothing back.

We encourage failure in sports, especially when softball is noteworthy of those statistics, however, this type of failing where money and well-being is involved is a different animal.

I bought in to the lie and the dream that because I’m an athlete I can get any job I want. Let me just give you a heads up on where that belief system got me. Not far, not far at all.

Unlike the many years I put into pitching, somewhere in my head I legitimately wanted to believe what coaches, family and friends were feeding me, heck I wanted my chocolate cake too.

Now for the humbling part. I have worked a total of 17 jobs.

Want to know how many times I changed my major in college? Seven.

So this bouncing around of sorts is starting to come into focus for me as I have gotten real with my story and my mental health.

In all of these jobs I tried getting back to my proverbial podium where I once stood at the top. It’s safe to say I had no freaking clue what I was doing.

I never stayed at a job for more than six months. I would succumb to the fears, pressures and lies of this world and have had a major identity crisis since hanging it up. You can’t imagine the amount of stress it caused me to tell my boss I was quitting or the lackluster I felt everyday or the depression or the not wanting to wake up in the morning.

It was like my once hardcore drive felt more like a joke. Why couldn’t I find me? Why didn’t I know who I was? Or what I wanted to do for a career? What the heck is wrong with me?

We are given tools as we grow up, some of us more than others, and athletics can be important if we are taught to put the 90 percent mental into affect. It can also be dangerous when not applied or when an athlete is overly glorified. This doesn’t just mean parents but coaches, administrators, and friends who place you on a platform whether you want it or not and treat you differently than everyone else.

I have spent most of my post-athletic career in grad school, job hopping, debt and attempting to adult. My grandpa and grandma have passed, I got married, I started beauty school and I dropped out of beauty school, I gave my life to the Lord, and I finally check myself into therapy.

Sounds like I’m heading in the right direction right? Not even close. The storm is just getting started.

maddi hackbarth photo by jade hewitt.jpg

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